That’s the latest argument being made in defense of using by-products in pet food. It’s an ecologically sound way of “respecting our planet’s precious resources” by “sparing our increasingly limited human food supply”.
A recent brochure published by Royal Canin defends their decision to add by-products to new formulas and upcoming launches. The company claims that the nutrient value and digestibility of fresh meat and by-products is “virtually identical”. There are circles, arrows, pictures and paragraphs to prove it.
Perhaps that’s true, but pardon my skepticism
It’s difficult to believe that the current industry definition of by-products always offers the same nutritional quality as muscle meat.
Certain defined by-products, specifically some internal organs, may be nutritionally comparable. If the case is being made for organ inclusion in pet food formulas, why not name those specific ingredients? Using the accepted industry term of by-products clouds the transparency of an ingredient listing in these cases.
When was the last time you chowed down on some by-products?
Many of us eat by-products every day. They’re found in hot dogs, hamburger, chicken nuggets and other fast food favorites. It’s a bit of a stretch to embrace them as delicacies served in high priced restaurants, although there is some truth to that as well.
So what’s wrong with feeding them to our pets? Perhaps it has something to do with the steady, repetitive diet most pets are fed day after day after day. How’s a 7 days/ week diet of fast food sound to you? Complete and balanced? Perhaps. Healthy? Perhaps not.
By-products have developed an unhealthy reputation over time
Not all of that reputation is undeserved. It is unfortunate that all by-products often get lumped together in this questionable category. All the more reason to identify those specific by-product components that do have merit, and call them by name.
To further bolster claims of comparable quality, the Royal Canin publication cites “scientific tests to demonstrate” the nutritional content of their kibbles. It’s comforting to know that only those which meet their industry standards will be kept. It’s not comforting to realize this can also mean those by-products don’t always meet industry standards. Which brings us right back to the age-old questions of quality once again.
Nutrients vs. Ingredients is a company philosophy
On the surface, this makes perfect sense. It’s far more useful to consider the nutritional benefits of a formula than manipulate ingredients for appearance. But this works both ways.
In the 1980s, Hills pet food company produced a “food” that was nutritionally balanced using shoe leather, motor oil and cardboard. Ironically, they recently launched a new line of foods which has completely removed all by-products.
The pet food industry spends much time and money to develop ingredient names and definitions
These definitions evolve regularly with industry input. By-products have been around as an industry sanctioned ingredient for decades. If there is something disturbing about its definition, it should be clarified through the procedures already in place.
Until we’re told more specifically what goes into a by-product or by-product meal ingredient, skepticism certainly seems justified.
Sustainability of earth or profit?
No one can say for certain whether this change is being made for budgetary reasons, or to save the earth. Perhaps some factory farming processes, or ingredient sourcing practices could be addressed first if the concern is truly coming from an ecological perspective.
We’re each left to form our own opinion on that subject as well.
Have a look at the Royal Canin brochure, “Why We Should Not be Afraid of Chicken by-Products” (opens in a new window)